How will my Brescia team do in the Champions League against the elite of Europe?

Will the likes of Man City, Borussia Dortmund and Manchester united send us crashing back to earth?

Can we retain our Serie A form and challenge for the title despite the congested fixture list and small squad?

Let’s find out….

Kicking off the new season

We started with a favourable opening fixture against Parma, however we were without the trio of top scorer Bianchi, Fabbian and new signing Diogo Spencer through injury and played out a boring goalless draw. 

As feared Nuno took his narrow 4-2-2-2 to rivals Hellas Verona and despite scoring early through the returning Fabbian, they soon equalised and spent the rest of the first half well on top This prompted a half time switch of tactics to our 3-4-2-1 which gave us a true midfield box and helped reclaim the middle of the park. We took a deserved lead on 77 minutes through a rare Niccolo Corrado goal from Left Wingback and saw out the game for our first victory of the season. 

We then DEMOLISHED a very good Napoli side 3-0, with two goals from Stefan Feiertag and a nicely placed finish from Michele Besaggio, giving Diogo Spencer his first assist in a Brescia shirt. 

Ahead of our first Champions League game a heavily rotated team won a 7 goal thriller against Empoli which saw new signing Mohamed-Ali Cho score twice on his full debut with more added by Bianchi (what’s new!) and youngster Patrick Amoako Nuamah

Champions League Commences

As mentioned in the previous article, we’ve got some tough fixtures – as is to be expected in the Champions League. However, we also have some very winnable games, and at £2.4m per win I need to make sure we put those weaker sides to the sword!

We started off with one which could have gone either way. Dutch giants PSV. I watched their last game verses Heracles and wasn’t overly impressed and went into the game confident of at least a draw. 

As you can imagine, PSV, at home, set up in their 4-3-3 and dominated the game… but only possession-wise! Luckily we turned up with our shooting boots on and went ahead thanks to a Bianchi shot which Benitez could only parry into the roof of his net. We doubled the lead from the second phase of a corner, when central defender Joaquin Sosa latched onto a Besaggio pass in a goal mouth scramble. We killed the game off just on the stroke of half time with a thunderbolt from Giovanni Fabbian which found the top corner from the edge of the area. 

Bianchi added his second, and our fourth, on 69 minutes before Ismaila Sarr pulled one back with a lovely curling shot which nestled nicely in the far bottom corner. 

What a start!

Another rotated team dominated a newly promoted Sampdoria team but allowed a very late equaliser when a shot which cannoned off the crossbar fell kindly to the feet of Orereke to cancel out Cho’s earlier strike. This could be 2 lost point which we deeply regret at the end of the season. 

Next up, the game I was dreading. Manchester City.

It started badly as we went down within the first minute when Phil Foden latched on to a Bernado pass. Five minutes later things looked to get even worse when Bernado turned provider to scorer, but luckily it was judged to be offside. Whilst we barely had any scoring opportunities we weren’t being dominated possession-wise too much, but the lack of chance creation worried me so I switched to the 3-4-2-1 again and things got a little better as again, we were able to fight it out a little better in midfield. City were still on top but on 84 minutes substitute 17-year-old Ciro Vetrini received the ball on the edge of the box and fired a low shot which somehow made it through the crowded area and into the far bottom corner. 

We managed to hold on for an amazing draw!

In the final league game before a 2 week international break we sailed past lovely Palermo in their lovely pink kit. Definitely a contender for a future FM save!

The long break allowed me to arrange two friendly games, versus LASK and Boca Juniors. We dominated both games and were able to give plenty of playing time to players who needed a little help getting match fit. Unfortunately, Flavio Junior Bianchi picked up an ankle injury in the final minutes of the Boca game which will see him miss 4 weeks. Very much not ideal!

However, we won’t let it put too much of a downer on an impressive start to the season.

Contract issue – Stay Strong!

As always, when things are going well, some players get a rush of blood (or ego) to the head. Maybe its agents who push them to it…

Eitherway, Right-sided wide centra back Houboulang Mendes came knockin’ on my door demanding a new contract. He’s already on 20k per week which is in line with the wage budget for his “regular starter” squad status. He’s been a good player for me ever since I bought him from Almeria for £2.4m two seasons ago, so rather than telling him where to stick it,  I asked him to wait until the end of the season. He got irate and demanded a new contract now!

As I said, things are going well and the squad is settled so I don’t want anything upsetting that unnecessarily, so I entered into contract negotiations. Unfortunately, he wanted a minimum of a wage budget smashing £36k per week (almost double his current salary) and to be deemed a Star player. 

I withdrew from negotiations, he got angry, a few teammates got angry but were soon placated when informed of what a greedy git he’s being. 

As his value has risen to £9m, I’ll preparing for his departure in the January transfer window and i’ll gradually reduce his playing time in favour of the younger, cheaper Columbian Andres Ferro

You have to stay strong in these situations and it highlights the importance of contingency planning!

Back to the Football

This is where things started to go wrong. With Bianchi out injured the strike force lack a bit of swagger. Like an enforcer in Ice Hockey makes his team play like they’re a couple of inches taller, our team plays with more confidence when Bianchi is in the line up. 

This was exactly the issue agains Fiorentina, who we dominated but ultimately lost 1-3 to. The same problems continued in the Cagliari game, where despite notching up an xG of 2.97 versus their 1.01, we lost 1-2.

We obviously then didn’t feel confident about our next game: The Champions League fixture versus Borussia Dortmund. A game with added spice after I turned them down in the pre-season and the instead turned to one Jose Mourinho

With Mohamed-Ali Cho and Giovanni Fabbian both carrying injuries going into the game only only recommended for 45 minutes it was always going to be a struggle and it was exactly that. Dortmund took the lead after just 7 minutes when Malen calmly dispatched a penalty and us not registering a shot on goal until the 37th minute, we were delighted to get into the break only 1-0 down. The home team’s dominance continued into the second half despite our switch to the 3-4-2-1 and they took a 2 goal lead on 73 minutes when Rothe finished off a nice move. We pulled one back through left Wingback Corrado on 83 minutes but we couldn’t muster much else.

Well done Dortmund. We were soundly beaten and had now lost three games in a row.

Midfield balance problems

Throughout the latter parts of last season – despite our success – and the first couple of months of this current season, I’ve had a niggling doubt about my midfield.

Not so much the players within it, but how I’m utilising them. 

In the 3-5-2, which has been my main formation for the past 6-8 months, Donny van de Beek has taken a more withdrawn role as the deep creator, as a Regista, whilst Giovanni Fabbian has been used as the “Destroyer” as either a Ball Winning Midfielder or a Box to Box. This is left the more attacking duties to be split between Michele Besaggio and David Periera da Costa who have been asked to score goals and get assists from the Mezzala role. 

Upon reading that you’d be very correct when you think “why are you wasting Donny van de Beek in such a withdrawn role”?

However, I was dealing with the cards I was dealt at the time, but now I’m in a position where I’m happy with the goalkeepers, defence and the strikers so have the bandwidth to focus on the centre of the park. I was planning on bringing in a “proper” ball winning midfielder on loan in the summer transfer window to be backup, but the right player wasn’t available. 

Before making any decisions though, we need to look at the players I have available.

Donny van de Beek – As you can see, his skillset is much more suited to the final third with elite off the ball movement, technique, passing and vision. Being used at the base of a midfield triangle as a sole-DM is potentially being harmful to the team, especially given his lack of defensive abilities.

Best role – Creator/Scorer

Michele Besaggio –  A very well rounded midfielder who is still only 24-years-old. Best suited to a creative role, he’s also got a decent engine to be able to be used in a more dynamic position, such as a Box to Box midfielder (although not to an elite level) or as a Mezzala which would rely more on his attacking prowess.

Best role – Creator

Giovanni Fabbian – The 6 ft 3″ 23-year-old midfielder joined for £800k from Bologna and is fulfilling his promise well, and I’m sure there is more to come from him. But how do we best achieve this? I bought him in to be our midfield destroyer for hopefully the duration of this save, however as you can see, his development has actually been in areas which lend themselves to arriving late in the box using his elite anticipation and off the ball skills to be a scoring threat, with is shooting, physicality and height. Therefore, a Box to Box role is likely the best to make the most of his well rounded skillset. 

Best role – Line Breaker

Giacomo Olzer – Playing time has been limited for Olzer, although he rarely lets the team down when he gets on the pitch. As the only left footer in the midfield he could be useful from a versatility standpoint. He’s another player in the growing list of creators and this shows as he ranks very highly for progressive passes, with over 8 per game. He is a skilful player and good pace and gets shots off… but he’s not good enough to claim a regular place in the starting 11. 

Best role – Creator

David Periera da Costa – Standing only 5’6″, the £3.2 signing from RC Lens has always played well, but always struggled to separate himself enough from Besaggio, hence they’ve split the Mezzala role since his arrival. He’s up there alongside van de Beek as an almost elite level creator. Technically there aren’t many on par with him, but his slight frame means he’s best suited out of the hustle and bustle of the centre of the park. 

Best role – Creator

Livano Comenencia – having just joined for £200k from Juventus, Livano is one for the future – but that doesn’t mean he can’t contribute immediately. His strengths currently lie in his physical abilities, but I’m hoping he can develop into more or a Destroyer role. 

Best role – Destroyer/Line Breaker

Patrick Amoako Nuamah – Patrick is a player who really needs to kick on with his development. I wanted to send him out on loan but he needs to be here to meet the Champions League registration rule for players “grown” at the club. He’s not excelling in any area, but I think his best chance of breaking into any form of regular football here is as a goal threat. 

Best role – Scorer

Ciro Vetrini – Ciro is a 17-year-old who could have a very exciting career. He already has elite level bravery and aggression as well as work rate and stamina. His technical abilities are also incredibly high for a player so young. He can definitely develop into an elite level Destroyer and hopefully thats done under my watch. 

So, what have we learned?

Well… we have an abundance of midfield creators, a good Box to Box guy and a couple of Ball Winning Midfielders who aren’t quite ready yet!

I’m also more aware now than ever that I need to be recruiting for a pure Destroyer. A midfield enforcer who will free up the likes of van de Beek and Fabbian to play their game and win us some points. 

Back to the action

Stepping back to the football, I was forced into our 3-4-2-1 in our match against Roma, due to only having one properly fit striker in Stefan Feiertag. Bianchi still isn’t back from his injury, Cho picked up a niggle in the Borussia Dortmund game and I’d previously made the amazing decision to send Moro out on loan…

Therefore, I was able to field both van de Beek and Da Costa as attacking midfielders, with Fabbian as a Ball Winning defensive midfielder alongside Besaggio who I’d dropped back into the Regista role. 

It worked well, initially and we lead 2-0 just after half time thanks to goals by central defender Sosa and Feiertag. The Tammy Abraham show soon took over though, as it usually does against me, and he scored two excellent goals to earn the visitors a hard fought draw they didn’t deserve. We outplayed Roma 2.47 xG to their 0.97 but faltered when my team were shattered from the Dortmund game and I was forced to make 5 changes which weakened us. 

The struggles continued when we fell 1-2 against lowly Frosinone.

I think I’m rotating the team TOO much before Champions League games. Something to look at. 

Luckily, with a switch back to the 3-5-2 we dominated Red Bull Salzburg in the Champions League. The 1-0 scoreline and xG suggests the game was closer than it actually was, but they fed on scraps and set piece opportunities and we were good value for the win. 

Slight Tactical Tweak

In a tactical switch, I dropped our tempo down from Slightly Higher to Slightly Lower and changed the middle of the three Central Defenders from a Ball Playing Defender to a standard Central Defender. Why? Well, I’m now classing us as a top 5-6 Serie A team off the back of last season’s 3rd place finish and a decent showing in the Champions League. As such I want to control games more. 

Now, I’ll never be in the camp of having possession for the sake of it. No one wants to sit through a 90 minute snooze fest of sideways and backwards passing. BUT as we have so many fixtures these days – and still have the Coppa Italia and the Super Coppa to come – I want my guys to be doing less running to conserve energy.

Back to the action (again)

This switch seemed to work as we looked much more assured in league wins over Udinese and arch-rivals Atalanta, a victory which saw Robbie Keane’s time as manager come to an end AND gives us a glimmer of hope of ticking off another Save Goal by doing the double over them and finishing higher… despite their current 5th place. Rather excitingly, they handed the keys to Xavi Alonso... it’ll be interesting to see what system he employs there. It could take this rivalry to new heights. 

Manchester United absolutely battered us in the Champions League, thanks to second half goals from Hojlund and Anthony. Both goals were wonderful, especially Anthony’s. Another game – like the Dortmund clash – which shows just how far away we are from the elite. 

Our Serie A form continues to frustrate as we struggled against teams we should be beating, especially if we are to be classed as a top 5 team as I wish. 

Lecce came to our place and caused no end of problems after Cho and Sarikaya put us two goals up, and we needed late goal by Comenencia to seal a 3-2 win. Next we fell to Bologna in a game which saw me give a start to Plizzari in goal, only for him to cement his lack of future at the club with two absolute blunders in the final 10 minutes which allowed Bologna to score twice in a 2-3 defeat. I threw a water bottle after the game. I hope it hit him.

He’s been a pain since joining; demanding to be the first choice keeper and Star treatment. We’ll he’s now transfer listed and hopefully won’t be here after January. 

Our final Champions League game of the calendar year came against the other Red Bull team, Leipzig. I’d turned down the managers job in the pre-season and I’m gad I did. Although they definitely need me as we dominated throughout and breezed to a 2-0 win, thanks to goals from Feiertag and central defender Rugani

If you follow me on Twitter/X you might have seen this tweet:

What a game. After 25 minutes we were 0-2 down and dead and buried, barely getting the ball out of our own half let alone having a single shot. After 30 minutes had passed I switched to the 3-4-2-1 and the game turned on its head. 

  • 36 minutes – Daniele Rugani scored a header from a corner. 1-2
  • 52 minutes – Flavio Junior Bianchi received a pass from Stefan Feiertag on the turn, takes one touch and slots past the keeper. 2-2
  • 58 minutes – We win a penalty which Bianchi smashed in 3-2
  • 70 minutes – David Periera da Costa lays a lovely pass into the path of Feiertag who scores. 4-2

Amazing result. 

There was a response to my tweet:

I should’ve listened.

Sticking with the 3-5-2, we welcomed Torino to our place and ended up with a very frustrating defeat as they BOTH of their only shots on goal whereas we couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo. 

Yes… I should’ve started the 3-4-2-1.

To finish off the first half of the season we would face 1st placed Inter Milan and 4th placed Juventus

So, with the above lesson in mind in started the 3-4-2-1 against Inter and we were being absolutely hammered. As seems to be tradition, Lautaro Martinez finally put us to the sword just before half time, BUT a half time switch back to a 3-5-2 allowed us to creep back into the game and Giovanni Fabbian rescued a valuable point with a goal from 20 yards. 

We got to January and game 18 of the league season with an excellent win over a Juventus team who are looking to have a much improved season after two poor years by their usual standards. Flavio Junior Bianchi goals in the 70th (assist Feiertag) and 79th (assist Cho) gave us a 2-0 win which saw us reach the mid-point in 9th place in Serie A.

Not as high as I’d want BUT we’re still well within touching distance of the European places.

As you can see, Alonso is taking a while to bed-in at Atalanta and they’ve fallen down to 10th place. Roma are struggling and have just fired their manager, which Bologna are flying high (mainly thanks to the 3 point we handed them on a plate!).

We’re in a good place in the Champions League rankings. With two games left (where we’ll play Malmo (32nd) and RC Lens (34th)) we’re just two points off qualifying for the next round without going through the playoffs. What an achievement that would be.

Top Performers

It’ll come as no surprise that Flavio Junior Bianchi is the team’s top scorer again this season. His per 90 stats are all down very slightly versus the end of last season but taking into consideration he’s playing more games against Europe’s elite, he’s still deadly and efficient in front of goal. Thankfully, the interest in him seems to have died down so I’m hoping he’ll still be here for the rest of the season at least.

The other two players here show what value we’re getting from the attacking left WingBack duo. Niels Nkounkou, a £3.3m signing last season is proving to be a top class creator, excelling at driving down the wing and sending in low crosses with pin point accuracy to the strike duo of Bianchi and Corrado. He has a release clause of £6.5m which I’m certain will get triggered in January, with numerous teams interested. My attempts at extending his contract have failed so far due to the caliber of teams courting him. I’ll keep trying!

Niccolo Corrado has split the time at left WingBack with Nkounkou and offers a more defensively solid option. Signed from local rivals Ternana for £1.5m a couple of seasons ago, he’s mainly been the back up option, however as he’s also added a couple of goals this season he’s definitely making a case for being given the starting role should Nkounkou move on. 

Looking ahead

Will the Champions League going well and qualification for the next phase a good possibility, I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the second half of the season. The league form should get back to normal and hopefully a few wins in a row will lift us back into the European places.

Personel-wise there could be a few changes.

I’ve signed a new midfield destroyer and a promising attacking player with Canadian & Chinese heritage. 

It seems at least one of key players in the team will be leaving, with bids coming for another.

Can’t wait…


  • ThrowingCopperFM

    ThrowingCopperFM is known for unraveling complex FM strategies, often using Girona FC as a canvas to illustrate his tactical theories. Whether it's penning down comprehensive guides on mastering promotion in FM or sharing bargain player finds, ThrowingCopperFM's content is a treasure trove for aspiring managers. His active Twitter engagement further demonstrates his enthusiasm for football discussions beyond the virtual realm, making him a well-rounded and appreciated contributor in the FM community.

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